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Study: Trump Religious Freedom Order Helps 13.7 Million Receive Health Care and Social Services

Doctor holding rosary

One year ago, President Donald Trump issued an executive order promoting free speech and religious freedom across the federal government. According to a study released on Thursday, also the National Day of Prayer, this order played a critical role in allowing faith-based charities to provide health care to 13.7 million Americans, along with many other salutary effects.

"Thanks to President Trump, over the last year we have witnessed nothing less than a revival of legal protections for religious freedom in America," Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins said in a statement releasing the report. "In tracking the impact of the executive order, our analysis finds that the president has helped hundreds of charities and schools that provide services for up to 14 million Americans."

This represents a sea change from the tenure of President Barack Obama. "Under the Obama administration, charities, family owned businesses and honest, hard-working people faced crushing fines for living according to their faith," Perkins added. "With the government threatening their very existence, these organizations successfully rallied the American people to their side β€” including many of the nearly 14 million Americans that they serve."

"In fact, the federal agency used by Obama to launch this attack has turned 180 degrees creating a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division under the Office for Civil Rights to restore federal enforcement of our nation's laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom," Perkins declared.

The report itself went through four administrative agencies β€” the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Defense (DOD) β€” analyzing the executive order's impact on governance.

Under Obama, the USDA had targeted David Vander Boon, a small business owner who runs a meat-packing facility. Vander Boon had left literature expressing pro-natural marriage views in his breakroom, and USDA officials threatened to remove USDA inspectors over the issue. Under Trump's executive order, the USDA issued policy statements clarifying that Vander Boon would not be targeted for his free speech.

After Trump's executive order, the DOJ has argued in favor of Jack Phillips, a baker who gladly served a same-sex couple but refused to bake a custom cake specifically for their same-sex wedding. As the FRC report noted, this sends a "message to the courts that ... the executive branch is prioritizing the First Amendment and religious liberty."

The most quantifiable change from Trump's executive order came in the HHS, however. As the report noted, "a multitude of religious organizations, charities, schools, and other groups and individuals have been tied up in years of litigation against the Obama administration's HHS contraceptive mandate that was issued following the passage of the Affordable Care Act," also known as Obamacare.